Since August a close friend of mine has been working abroad. In addition to living in a different country, he is working at a new job. While the decision to work abroad was prompted by a desire to step out of his comfort zone, he has spoken much to me about how lonely he feels. He is away from his family, friends and living in a different culture. The social norms, customs and language are all foreign to him. He knew it would be different and had welcomed the challenge, but he has admitted that he thought it would be easier. There have been times when he has seriously considered quitting his job and booking the next flight back home. However, my friend is still working abroad and while he still feels like an outsider he is managing his loneliness.
Here are some pointers that have helped my friend with his loneliness while living abroad:
1. Keeping up with your hobbies and making new ones
Do what makes you feel happy or what makes you feel the most like you. Just because you are living in a different place doesn’t mean you can not continue. The landscape may be different and alterations may have to be made due to this, but the familiarity of that hobby will help make you feel more at home. Alongside keeping up with your hobbies, taking up new hobbies that are unique to the city you are living in may help you embrace your new location. It could also be a good opportunity to meet people who share similar interests.
2. Treating yourself to a night out
It may feel like you’re spending days or weeks on end alone, with you and Netflix becoming your regular Friday night. However, everyone needs a night out. Put on your favorite outfit and catch a movie at the theater or see that museum exhibit you have been meaning to get to. Just because you may be riding solo does not mean you can’t treat yourself after a long work week. You don’t have to worry about anyone running late or enduring small talk, just enjoying your own company.
3. Staying in contact
There are several social media outlets and phone apps that can help you stay in touch with family and friends back home. While this immediate and constant access to your loved ones at home can be helpful for homesickness and comfort, it can be a double edged sword. Seeing pictures of parties back home on Facebook can make you feel more isolated and left out. Staying in contact but allowing yourself to not be glued to your phone is needed. Try making scheduled Skype date times ahead of time. Keeping in touch but making sure you don’t live vicariously through your friends at home or living in the past will help you keep your relationships strong at home while being available to experience your own adventure abroad.
4. Be open to new opportunities
When a co-worker asks whether you would like to grab a bite after work or go to a holiday party, say yes. There may be times when all you want to do is get into bed and hide underneath the covers. Saying yes to opportunities will help you get out of your comfort zone, meet new people and experience things you may never able to experience again. You have already taken the first step by travelling abroad. Why say no now?
5. Finding someone to talk to
The loneliness and homesickness you may feel living abroad can be overwhelming. Seeking someone to talk to, whether it be a friend back home, co-workers or a therapist can help. Speaking your feelings and thoughts aloud to someone you trust will help you come to terms with your feelings and get advice. You don’t have to manage your feelings alone.
While my friend is lonely and homesick, he is managing his loneliness and has signed up for another year abroad. The opportunity and experiences he has been able to live have outweighed the distance.
Thank you for reading. I hope these tips have been able to help anyone who is or is thinking of living abroad in the future. Please feel free to leave any advice or tips in the comment section for people living abroad and experiencing loneliness.
About Hilary M
Hilary M is a twenty-something Toronto student who is living with social anxiety. She considers herself an ally with people living with disabilities and enjoys working and volunteering at organizations that secure human rights and accessibility for all individuals.